Winning the UEFA Cup could rescue Werder Bremen's moribund season, but coach Thomas Schaaf could be excused a shudder as he looked ahead to Wednesday's tie, saying: "Everyone knows how strong AC Milan are."
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Winning the UEFA Cup may be Werder Bremen's best chance of rescuing a moribund season, but coach Thomas Schaaf could be excused a shudder of fear as he looked ahead to Wednesday's game, saying: "Everyone knows how strong AC Milan are."
A 1-1 draw against the Bundesliga's bottom side, VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, was evidence of Bremen's sluggish mood, following back-to-back league defeats against DSC Arminia Bielefeld and FC Schalke 04. Tenth in the domestic standings and already out of the UEFA Champions League, their season may hinge on how they can perform against a David Beckham-enriched Milan side in the Round of 32.
Schaaf will have Diego available, with the playmaker having been suspended for the first three league games of 2009, but Torsten Frings is serving a match ban, Jurica Vranješ misses out with a hip problem and Daniel Jensen is doubtful after sustaining a thigh injury on international duty with Denmark. Hardly surprising, then, that Schaaf is wary. "Everybody knows how strong AC Milan are," he said. "Their team and their players are very famous, so we definitely have to concentrate on Milan before thinking about the next round."
Milan have problems of their own, though, with Kaká likely to be unavailable for the trip to Bremen along with such long-term absentees as defender Alessandro Nesta (back), midfielder Gennaro Gattuso (right knee) and striker Marco Borriello (thigh). Already out of the Coppa Italia, Sunday's 2-1 loss to FC Internazionale Milano also blew a hole in Milan's Serie A title hopes, with coach Carlo Ancelotti saying: "We are not thinking about winning the Scudetto anymore."
The UEFA Cup, though, is very much on the agenda. "If we win this tie then we will have a good chance to win the trophy," said Ancelotti, who could field Beckham despite ongoing doubts about the on-loan Englishman's future, amid wrangles with his American side Los Angeles Galaxy. Ancelotti explained: "We decided to add David Beckham to our UEFA Cup squad list, even if we don't know if he is going to stay yet, because the two games against Werder Bremen are crucial for us." Beckham has only played twice in the UEFA Cup, featuring in both legs of a 1995/96 first-round tie against SC Rotor Volgograd, which Manchester United FC lost on away goals after a 0-0 draw in Russia and a 2-2 result at home.